722 FW 4, Harvest Information 

FWM#:    180 (new)
Date:        February 17, 1995
Series:      Migratory Birds
Part 722:  Migratory Bird Surveys
Originating Office:  Office of Migratory Bird Management 

4.1 Purpose. To describe procedures for conducting surveys monitoring migratory bird harvest to prevent over-harvest by hunters pursuant to the Fish and Wildlife Service's (Service) migratory bird management programs and the annual promulgation of Federal migratory bird hunting regulations. Harvest estimates directly measure the effect of hunting regulations on harvest and provide information on other effects of hunting. Harvest estimates, together with estimates of breeding populations, survival, and harvest rates, are used to monitor the status of migratory game bird populations and to ensure that there will be adequate populations for future generations to enjoy.

4.2 Customers. Migratory bird harvest estimates are used by the Service's Office of Migratory Bird Management, State Wildlife Agencies, the Canadian Wildlife Service, university researchers, private organizations concerned with migratory birds, and individuals.

4.3 Current surveys.

A. Waterfowl Hunter Survey. This survey estimates potential waterfowl hunters (those who purchased a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp with intention of hunting), active waterfowl hunters, hunting trips, and the harvest of ducks, geese and coots. Estimates are provided for States, Flyways and the Nation. The harvest of other migratory game birds bagged by waterfowl hunters is also estimated, but the estimates are of limited value because non-waterfowl hunters are excluded from the survey. The survey is expected to be replaced by the Migratory Bird Hunter Surveys (see 722 FW 4.6 C) in 2000 after a phase-in period. The numbers of Federal Duck Stamps sold in each State are provided by the U.S. Postal Service and the Duck Stamp Office of the Service. Each year about 25 percent of the post offices and 20 percent of the National Wildlife Refuges and other outlets that sell Federal Duck Stamps are randomly selected to participate in the survey. They are asked to distribute name and address postcards to everyone who buys a duck stamp. The postcards are used to estimate the proportion of duck stamp buyers who plan to hunt waterfowl. Others may buy duck stamps to help save wetlands, for stamp collecting, as entrance permit to some National Wildlife Refuges, or for other reasons. Everyone who returns a postcard and plans to hunt waterfowl is sent a questionnaire at the end of the waterfowl hunting season. About 50,000 hunters each year are asked to report the number of days they hunted waterfowl, the States in which they hunted, and how many of each type of waterfowl (ducks, sea ducks, geese and coots) they bagged. Follow-up questionnaires are sent to those who do not return the initial questionnaire. Total duck and goose harvest is estimated by multiplying the number of duck stamps sold by the proportion of duck stamps that were bought for hunting and then by the average seasonal bag of ducks or geese.

B. Waterfowl Parts Survey. About 20,000 successful waterfowl hunters from the previous year's Waterfowl Hunter Survey and Waterfowl Parts Survey are asked to send to the Service duck wings and goose tail feathers from the birds they bag. There are four collection points, one in each of the four administrative flyways. Federal and State biologists meet for a week in each flyway at the end of the hunting season each year to determine the species, age, and sex composition of approximately 100,000 wings and tails contributed by hunters. These results are combined with estimates of the total duck and goose harvests, to estimate how many birds of each waterfowl species were bagged nationwide, as well as the geographic and seasonal distribution of the harvest of each species. Age ratios, based on numbers of immature and adult wings, provide indicators of species' reproductive success during the previous breeding season. In the future, the names and addresses of successful waterfowl hunters will come from the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (see 722 FW 4.6).

C. Woodcock Wing-collection Survey. Successful woodcock hunters from the previous year's Waterfowl Hunter and Woodcock Wing-collection Surveys are asked to send to the Service wings from the woodcock they shoot. The plumage characteristics of the wings are used to assign a sex and age to each wing submitted. Federal and State biologists meet for one week in February to classify the wings submitted during the previous hunting season. The ratio of immature wings per adult wing provides an indication of woodcock reproductive success during the previous breeding season. In the future, the names and addresses of successful woodcock hunters will come from the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (see 722 FW 4.6).

D. Sandhill Crane Hunter Survey. About 20,000 Federal sandhill crane hunting permits are issued by State Wildlife Agencies in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. One half the permittees in North Dakota and Texas, and all the other permittees, are surveyed by mail questionnaire to estimate the number of active and successful hunters, days hunted, and the retrieved and unretrieved kill.

4.4 Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program.

A. Need. Accurate migratory bird harvest estimates are essential for monitoring the impact of hunting and to ensure that there will be adequate populations for future generations to enjoy. There are serious problems with using either current State or Federal harvest surveys to monitor national or regional harvests of doves, woodcock, and other non-waterfowl migratory game birds. The present Federal Waterfowl Hunter Survey system of obtaining names and addresses of duck stamp buyers is inadequate because non-waterfowl hunters are excluded. More than half of the Nation's migratory bird hunters do not hunt waterfowl, thus they are not sampled by the current survey. Attempts to use State harvest surveys to obtain coordinated national and regional estimates have not been successful. The new Harvest Information Program will improve the current Waterfowl Hunter Survey and provide reliable estimates of the harvest of other important migratory game birds, such as mourning dove and woodcock.

B. Schedule. The Final Rule establishing the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program was published in the Federal Register on March 19, 1993. States will be phased in annually until all States participate in 1998. The new surveys will overlap the current Waterfowl Hunter Survey in order to estimate conversion factors for comparing harvests estimated by the old survey with harvests estimated by the new surveys. The conversion to the Harvest Information Program will be completed by 2000.

C. Description. The Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program requires all licensed migratory bird hunters in participating States to provide their names and addresses annually to the State Wildlife Agencies. A few of these hunters will be asked by the Service to voluntarily participate in a survey and to keep records of their hunting. State Wildlife Agencies and the Service are cooperating in the Program. There should be little impact on individual hunters. The Program will not generate revenue for the Service or for State Wildlife Agencies, although States may charge a small handling fee to compensate license vendors and State Agencies. To protect hunters' privacy, it is the policy of the Service to use the names and addresses only for conducting hunter surveys and for no other purpose.

D. Migratory Bird Hunter Surveys. These surveys will replace the Waterfowl and Sandhill Crane Hunter Surveys (see paragraphs 4.5.A & D) in 2000 after a phase-in period. The design of the Migratory Bird Hunter Surveys will be similar to the Waterfowl Hunter Survey except that hunters' names and addresses will come from the Harvest Information Program instead of from Federal Duck Stamp buyers. The waterfowl survey will be expanded to include all other migratory game birds. Hunters will be sent one of three hunting record forms (duck, sea duck, goose, and coot hunting; mourning dove, white-winged dove, band-tailed pigeon, and woodcock hunting; or snipe, rail, gallinule, and sandhill crane hunting) to avoid overburdening individual hunters. Hunters' names and addresses from the Harvest Information Program will be also used for the Waterfowl Parts Survey and the Woodcock Wing-collection Survey (see paragraphs 4.5 B & C).

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